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Web 2.0: Are School Principals Falling Behind?


This post on the edweek.org blog LeaderTalk, which is a group blog written by school leaders, lays out an all-too-familiar scene in today's schools in which the author of the post, Dave Sherman, finds out that one of his fellow administrators, who he admires, knows very little about Web 2.0 tools and resources.

It starts with the principal asking what Skype is and after some digging, Dave finds out that the principal doesn't know about RSS, Google docs, Ning, del.icio.us, or other popular Web tools. Considering that in the past month I have explained and set up RSS feeds for several of my friends—who are, by the way, "digital natives"—that news isn't surprising to me.

Plus, it's hard for me to imagine a scenario in which principals have the time to keep up with all the latest tech trends, since the amount of new information available each day is indeed overwhelming. Unless keeping up with tech trends is made a high priority by the administrator, I can see how keeping up with it all would quickly fall by the wayside because of other, more important priorities.

But how important is it, really, for administrators to know the ins and outs of every single technological phenomenon that comes along? It seems to me like that might eat up almost all of their time and take away from some of the other important duties that administrators have.

Perhaps a better strategy would be fostering an environment which allows teachers who are looking for new techniques and teaching tools to be able to easily put those to use in their classrooms. As I've heard over and over, having an administrator who is open to, and supportive of, new technologies, even if he or she is not personally familiar with them, can make all the difference.

What do you think? How should administrators be keeping up with new technologies?


I do think that principals should keep up with technology mainly because luddite principals cannot possibly show the value of technology applications in the classroom if they are so deskilled themselves. There are minimum skills that every educator should have in order to function at work and as leaders. Not knowing the basics means you cannot evaluate the technology skills of your staff nor can you push your school forward in creative and innovative ways.

Technology + Classroom Autonomy. That was at the heart of the 21st century education model in Finland. And now look where they stand: top of the heap in math and science.

Administrators could subscribe to one useful blog, such as Instructify, http://blogs.learnnc.org/instructify, and read it on a regular basis. In today's day and age it's easy to access information quickly.

At the same time, I definitely agree that teachers should be empowered to experiment with new technology. My own company is beginning to provide curriculum resources that use Web 2.0 technologies.

There are a lot of ways that teachers can keep up with technology and a lot of them are free. Big companies including Microsoft, Google, Zoho, etc., offer online applications that are comprehensive and no charge. I think that as technology progresses, there will be more services that are provided as open source/free, since they are quickly becoming a necessity in the online world to exchange information and ideas.

I think principals should keep up enough to be conversant and to take advantage of a handful of very valid opportunities with each new school year. The way to get there is rely on a few experts from staff or volunteers.

The Groupery is a great, free Web 2.0 service designed explicitly for school volunteers although useful elsewhere. It provides a parent maillist and a secure way to engage volunteers. Full disclosure - I used to work there - but schools can really benefit from this comprehensive service.

When techno geeks can run entire schools effectively, Principals may learn all new technology. In an age of specialization, people should specialize.
Principals do not have time to follow every technology trend because they put out fires ALL day.
In addition, a large portion of new technology is consumer driven, intended only to produce sales, and has no positive effect on learning. Just because garbage is placed into a new format, electronic, does not mean it belongs in schools. Students can text or tweet, but they cannot read or write standard English. They are glued to their phones, "engaged," and learn a lot of nothing. Let's be a little more critical...

I totally disagree.

The most important thing to teach a student is the desire to learn and discover. With that they can become a better learner. WHY?--because they are truly engaged as they are learning, researching, etc.

Tools like twitter and other online tools are important because they foster internal motivation to research and discover.

I rather have a student learn and be motivated to figure out how to research any topic they want on google, twitter, etc, than teach a student social studies, science, etc. By learning how to get the answers for something they already care about finding the answers to, they'll have the tools to do research for their paper when it occurs to them that it's time to do what they "gotta do" and complete their paper on time.

IN SHORT, I find it more important to teach a student how to learn efficiently, than specific subjects. And the intelligent use of technology such as search engines expedites the ability for students and people to learn and find answers for themselves (keyword: "themselves").

Maybe speaking and writing "standard english" is less important than solving real world goals by searching google up and down to find what you want. My students can find things in 5 minutes that would they would be paid to find at various future jobs that many of the senior teachers at my school would never think is possible to find.

My students learn to find what they want and do it quickly with google. If they care about learning something, they'll find it.

It's not the same world anymore, and fighting it is only stealing opportunities away from our children. They need to learn what will help them succeed, not learn what we learned because we want them to be like us.

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